History, biography, travel, science--lots of “factual” books attract readers. A well-written book can make even an esoteric topic interesting and accessible to us, the “educated layman”. Who would have guessed that a book on the invention of chronometers for determining latitude could be a bestseller and critical success? John McPhee alone has shown that a graceful essayist can interest readers in canoes, oranges, tiny Hebridean islands, prep school headmasters, the Swiss army, and the geology of most of the western United States.
You don't need to be a obsessed buff or post-doc to enjoy most of the books listed in these links. We have to admit, however, that obsessed buffs--like the fanatics of popular fiction genres--seem more likely to post lists on the web. So be sure to also try other sections of this site, like Books to read before you die, for books of wide general interest.
Readers Catalog; an annotated list of over 40,000 of the best books in print. Z 1035 R263
Readers Adviser; an annotated guide to the best in print Z 1035 B7
Public Library Catalog (annotated list of titles likely to be in a PL) Z 1035. W77
100 best business books of all time HF100 8Z .C85 2009
100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Century - Modern LibraryAcademic Books
These may not all be light reading, but the books featured may have appeal beyond the limits of their discipline.
Choice Books for Undergraduate Libraries Professors write short reviews of books likely to be needed in college libraries. Marriott buys many books with a satisfactory review in this journal.